CSX Transportation service issues snarl some Amtrak routes

RELATED TOPICS: CSX | AMTRAK | OPERATIONS | EAST | EHH
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CHICAGO — CSX Transportation’s service problems have clobbered on-time performance for some of the Amtrak trains that run on its rails.

The hardest-hit trains include Silver Service/Palmetto, the Cardinal, the Hoosier State, and the Maple Leaf. Each saw significant declines in on-time performance in July when compared to the prior 12 months.

In July, Amtrak’s Silver Service/Palmetto service, which links New York and points in Florida and Georgia, ran late 80 percent of the time. That’s down from being late 56 percent of the time over the past 12 months.

The Cardinal didn’t fare much better: It was late 77 percent of the time on its runs between Washington and Chicago. In the prior 12 months the train was late 43 percent of the time.

Yet the Auto Train, Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited, Empire Service, and Carolinian/Piedmont got through July relatively unscathed. On-time performance improved or held steady. In cases where their performance did decline, it had more to do with factors that did not start with the letters “CSX.”

“CSX has acknowledged that some customers have experienced some undesired effects as we are transitioning to our new operating plan,” railroad spokesman Rob Doolittle says. “We value all of our customers, including Amtrak, and we have worked diligently to resolve those issues as they have emerged.”

CSX dispatchers continue to provide Amtrak trains with preference in accordance with federal law, Doolittle says.

Amtrak would not say whether the deterioration in on-time performance has affected ridership on some of its routes. But spokesman Marc Magliari says that arriving on time is the biggest single factor in customer satisfaction.

“Amtrak performance on a route is often the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ “ Magliari says. “If our trains are not running well, the freight trains are often not running well.”

CSX began struggling since mid-July amid the broad operational changes CEO E. Hunter Harrison has made while implementing precision scheduled railroading. Shippers have been complaining to Congress and federal regulators regarding widespread service disruptions. The erratic service has caused plant shutdowns and production slowdowns while forcing some CSX customers to divert shipments to trucks.

“The numbers speak for themselves every month,” Magliari says. “Host railroads make operational and dispatching decisions that can result in delays to our trains and cause our trains not to make the times on the schedules the host railroads have agreed to meet.”

CSX says it expects to see noticeable service improvements after Labor Day. Precision scheduled railroading ultimately will provide CSX’s freight customers and Amtrak with more reliable service, Doolittle says.

In the meantime, expect delays on some Amtrak routes hosted by CSX.

Hoosier State on-time performance fell to 54 percent in July, down from 77 percent over the last 12 months. CSX train interference was the leading cause of delays.

On-time performance of the Maple Leaf declined from 77 percent over the past 12 months to 61 percent in July, with train interference on CSX the biggest culprit. But Amtrak’s own performance, along with issues on Metro-North, also contributed to delays.

The Capitol Limited was late 66 percent of the time in July. But over the past year it’s been late 58 percent of the time. And most of the delays were incurred on Norfolk Southern, which handles the train between Pittsburgh and Chicago.

Likewise, most of the delays on the Empire Corridor linking New York and Niagara Falls were attributable to train interference on Metro-North Railroad, not CSX. Empire trains posted 78 percent on-time performance in July, down from 84 percent over the past 12 months.

The Auto Train’s on-time performance improved in July, to 66 percent versus 56 percent over the past 12 months. The Carolinian/Piedmont service, which runs over CSX between Washington, D.C., and Selma, N.C., improved as well. On-time performance in July rose to 57 percent, up from 54 percent over the past 12 months. The trains also are handled by NS and Amtrak.

And don’t blame CSX for all of the late arrivals on the Lake Shore Limited. It was late 64 percent of the time in July, worsening from 53 percent in the last 12 months.

Congestion on NS between Cleveland and Chicago was responsible for nearly half of the delays the trains incurred in July. CSX, which handles the Lake Shore between Cleveland and the Albany area, as well as the Boston section of the Lake Shore, was responsible for 30 percent of the delays related to train interference.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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